Worried about changing medicines?

Tips for tackling the most common worries when you're given new, different or extra asthma medicine

Will this medicine work as well as my old one? 

"When your asthma medicine is changed, it’s natural to wonder if this new medicine will be any good," says Asthma UK nurse Kathy. "We always advise just giving it a go. Take the medicine as prescribed and keep track of how you’re getting on." 

  • Keep an eye on your symptoms – if you’re getting worse at any point, go back to your GP, but if they’re improving, that’s a great sign your medicine is working.
  • Keep an eye on your peak flow readings – if they’re dropping, go back to your GP.
  • Try not to worry – your GP or nurse will have done this because they think it’ll be as good, if not better, than before. 

Will I get side effects? 

"When you look up your new medicine online or read the information leaflet, the list of potential side effects might sound dramatic and scary," says nurse Kathy. "But your GP considers any potential risks before prescribing the medicine."

  • Talk through your worries and fears with one of our Asthma nurses – most side effects affect very few numbers of people and it’s worth weighing this up against the positives, like fewer asthma symptoms, more sleep, and enjoying work and family life. WhatsApp a nurse now. 
  • Get your inhaler technique just right and use a spacer if you need to  this will help you avoid side effects by making sure the medicine goes to your lungs, where it’s needed, and not the rest of your body. See our inhaler technique videos.
  • Chat to your local pharmacist – they’re trained to deal with questions about side effects.

Is it safe to take steroids?

The idea of taking more steroids can be a big issue for some people, but it might help to know your GP will always prescribe the lowest dose possible to stop your asthma cough, wheeze, tight chest and breathlessness. 

  • Go back to your doctor if you’ve been symptom-free and haven’t needed your blue reliever inhaler for 12 weeks. "They may be able to reduce the dose again once the inflammation is under control," says nurse Kathy.   
  • Ease your worries by getting the facts about steroids in asthma medicines. For example, did you know the steroids in asthma medicines are actually copies of a substance your body makes naturally to soothe inflammation? 

Can I get help with the cost of my prescriptions?

Swapping from one medicine to another won’t increase the cost if you pay for your prescriptions. But if you’ve been given extra medicines then your costs could go up. "This is where getting a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) for your prescriptions could save you loads of money," says nurse Kathy. 

There are two options: 

1. A 3-month PPC costs £30.25 and will save you money if you need more than three prescribed items in three months.

2. A 12-month PPC costs £108.10 and will save you money if you need more than 11 prescribed items in a year. You'll save £4 if you need 12 items, and the more items you need, the more you save.

If you are on a low income, you can also apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme, which may be able to offer you help with affording your prescriptions. 

Last updated August 2019

Next review due December 2021

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